McCain refers to 'tea party hobbits,' blasts Bachmann-backed idea
July 27th, 2011
07:36 PM ET
12 years ago

McCain refers to 'tea party hobbits,' blasts Bachmann-backed idea

Washington (CNN) - On the same day that House Speaker John Boehner told Republicans to "Get your asses in line" and support his debt ceiling proposal, Sen. John McCain also blasted fellow Republicans.

In a Senate floor speech laced with sarcasm and stings, the Arizona Republican aimed especially harsh fire at the tea party Wednesday.

McCain said the movement is "foolish" to think a balanced budget amendment could pass before the August 2 deadline. At one point, McCain read from an op-ed in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal. That article referred to activists as "tea party hobbits" – the little people who inhabit Middle-earth in the Lord of the Rings series.

McCain – 2008's Republican presidential nominee – also blasted as "bizarre" an idea supported by current GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, though McCain did not mention her by name.

McCain's fiery language comes amid competing Democratic and Republican plans to reduce the deficit.

McCain also blasted Democrats in his speech. He called the plan from Majority Leader Harry Reid "full of smoke and mirrors," and said President Barack Obama is leading "from behind" by not offering "a specific plan that perhaps could be considered by both bodies."

"It's unfair of the president of the United States ... only to go out and give lectures and act in as partisan a fashion as I have seen in his addresses to the American people," McCain said.

When it came to the tea party, McCain was equally biting.

He said he fully supports a balanced budget amendment. But he thundered that current political realities make passing one in the near future near impossible.

"What is really amazing is that some (Senate) members are believing that we can pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution in this body with its present representation – and that is foolish," McCain said.

"That is worse than foolish," he continued. "That is deceiving many of our constituents."

"To hold out and say we won't agree to raising the debt limit until we pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, it's unfair, it's bizarre," McCain added. "And maybe some people who have only been in this body for six or seven months or so really believe that. Others know better."

McCain did not mention which senators he was referring to. But also on Wednesday, Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, tea party boosters, joined many tea party activists who rallied on Capitol Hill demanding passage of the "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan. Among other things, that proposal would cut total spending by $111 billion for fiscal year 2012 and require a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that would cap total annual spending at 18 percent.

McCain talked about Boehner's plan and quoted the Wall St. Journal piece, which said: "The question now is whether House Republicans are going to help Mr. Boehner achieve significant progress, or in the name of the unachievable, hand Mr. Obama a victory."

McCain continued reading the article: "The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue and the public will turn en masse against Barack Obama....Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea party hobbits could return to Middle-earth...This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell into GOP nominees. The reality is the debt limit will be raised one way or another."

Earlier in his remarks, McCain blasted a position that Rep. Bachmann supports.

Saying, "Today we are six days away from a possible default which could plunge this country into a serious crisis," McCain added: "There are those that argue somehow in a bizarre fashion that somehow we could prioritize our payments to the most urgent requirements, such as our veterans, such as Social Security."

Bachmann recently co-sponsored a bill that aims to ensure military service members receive their paychecks on time should the nation default.

McCain won re-election in last year's midterm elections after a bitter primary with former congressman J.D. Hayworth, who had some tea party support.

The nation's largest tea party group is responding to McCain.

Mark Meckler is co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. He told CNN that many Americans support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution – and "What Republicans should be doing is pushing all the way to the line."

As for McCain's quoting the Wall Street Journal's line about "tea party hobbits," Meckler used his own Lord of the Rings metaphor to strike back at the senator.

"Clearly he's been corrupted by the ring of power," Meckler said.

Republican Sharron Angle, who lost her Nevada Senate bid against Democratic Sen. Harry Reid in 2010 with support from the tea part movement, praised the "hobbits" while taking a jab at McCain.

"As in the fable, it is the hobbits who are the heroes and save the land," Angle said in a statement. "It is regrettable that a man seeking dialogue, action and cooperation for votes on the floor of the United States Senate has only one strategy to achieve that effort: name-calling. Nice."

Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN

Filed under: Debt • Deficit • John McCain • Tea Party movement
soundoff (381 Responses)
  1. ADB

    Feeding frenzy!!! Another working metaphor: 'Like heat addled scorpions, the GOP's running around stinging itself in the head.' It's time for a real House cleaning.

    July 27, 2011 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  2. Txpharn

    It's good to see moderate maverick John McCain is back, no longer cowed by the Tea Party assault in his home state. Welcome back, sir, we need your voice right now.

    July 27, 2011 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  3. bilk7

    It's about time some of the real Republicans stood up against this extremist group!

    July 27, 2011 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  4. Charlie from the North

    Bravo McCain, I've said all along what we needed was a Republican willing to stand up to the Tea Pardiots. I wish it were a Republican people still paid attenion to. But it is a start.

    July 27, 2011 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  5. Slick1

    Wow McCain's Hero again. I always liked him thought he was nuts to get Palin but he always was willing to work with people. The Tea party people are nut's the bottom line says it all.
    "What Republicans should be doing is pushing all the way to the line."
    This is absolutely the problem (Tea party) They are willing to ruin the county for ideology and that's Insane!
    Please call the republican party and crew them out tell them they are forced out for this, They need to get there act together all the republicans I know quite in the last 4 years most are right now.................
    Total sham America! Please don't let the tea party ruin this nation!

    July 27, 2011 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  6. LMC

    AT least McCain has some sense left!

    July 27, 2011 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  7. Dreamer96

    Dear Mr McCain
    Rational thought in an irrational D.C., Hang in there old soldier.

    July 27, 2011 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  8. John John

    If the GOP thinks that the American public will blame anyone but them, they had better think again. It is becoming quite clear that the Republicans represent that 25% radical far right that does not care what they do to this country, but values power above all. The Democrats have put up a very reasonable compromise from the Senate, and if the House does not pass it, we will remember each and every Representative that voted against it and make that disfavor quite known in the next election.

    July 27, 2011 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  9. Tom

    Where was this man in 2008? I am a liberal, but have always admired and respected McCain (except when he completely changed his character during the Presidential bid). John McCain at his best today!!!

    July 27, 2011 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  10. Sterling

    It's delightful that weekend quarterbacks like Meckler can push for political games of chicken with the likely outcome of the financial ruin of national and possibly world economies and not face any consequences. How different our political climate might be if he were held accountable for suggesting that we should ruin millions of peoples' lives so people like himself can bask in the glow of rhetoric that they haven't rubbed two brain cells together considering.

    July 27, 2011 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  11. J F

    Its one of the greatest things in life to see Republicans scrambling around eating each other, desperately trying to protect their billionaire sponsors.....i can't believe this is free to watch

    July 27, 2011 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  12. RillyKewl

    Wow. Looks like McCain got his mojo back today. Nice to see the Old Mav again.
    I disagree with some of what he said about the President, but I give him all the points for style, and most for substance too.

    July 27, 2011 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  13. Jim Jensen

    Even were Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment under pressure from the extreme Right, there is zero chance of its being ratified by a super majority of the States. Such an amendment is a bad idea, since at times not only families but also governments have valid reasons to borrow money. It may be that an amendment should be passed limiting the debt based on the GDP, just as banks limit loans based on the economic circumstances of borrowers.

    July 27, 2011 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  14. JohnRJ08

    Anybody who knows what the implications of a Balanced Budget Amendment are would NEVER support it. The only people who do support it don't know really know what it would do to this country and our economic standing in the world. Ignorance is bliss, but only in the short term.

    July 27, 2011 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  15. Dick Hertz

    President Obama wants us to contact our Representatives about the budget. The average American is tired of making sacrifices. It's time for Illegal aliens and their spawn to make the sacrifices. They deserve nothing. I say again. Nothing. It churns my guts every time I go to a Doctor's office and see them lined up. If I can't get a rebate on supporting them then I'd rather see my money spent deporting them. E-Verify should be mandatory on every worker in America. If benefits have been taken from Veterans in the past then the same can be done to an Anchor babies citizenship. I'm a Veteran and believe I shouldn't have to support my enemy.
    I'm an Independent voter and my vote next year will go to those who are getting rid of the Illegal aliens. I want to see them disappearing and Americans going back to work.

    July 27, 2011 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  16. Marn7271

    Mccain is wrong. If they fail to reach an agreement to raise the dept ceiling the backlash will be toward the republicans and in particular, Mr. Boehner ! A man so entrenched on killing seniors, disabled and anyone on Social Security or Medicare. Boehner is a very dangerous man for America. If Social Security checks are cut or don't go out on the 3rd, America will be in a revolution by the poor, who's numbers are over 250 million people and no one, not even the military, will be able to stop. I don't think the military will try to stop the people since they have members of their own families on Social Security and Medicare. The only reason the military is on top of the list to be paid, these politicians think the military will protect them from a massive revolution. They are dead wrong if that's what the politicians are counting on. No one will be able to stop 200 million armed people from heading toward Washington and doing away with this government !

    July 27, 2011 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  17. Lindsey

    We all know where McCain stands as he voted for the bailouts just like Obama. Jim DeMint would never do such a thing! If we have to create a new political party we will!

    July 27, 2011 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  18. Steve Lyons

    The TEA Party is holding the line against democrats and rino's. They have the hardest battles ahead, but the will of the people is behind them and not the prior two.

    July 27, 2011 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  19. lynn

    McCain finally found his brains. Now to whip his party back in line before the Palin Tea Party gets their second wind. The Tea Party is totally responsible for this mess and they are as frightening as Hitler was in 1938, For some bizarre reason there are people who will always follow a lunetic fringe.

    July 27, 2011 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  20. Cardog

    So, where are the right wing bloggers on this story? Say what you want about Senator McCain, but one thing you cannot say is "he lives in la la land". Telling his fellow Teapublicans as well as those who still believe they belong to the Republican party, what needs to be heard, was a breath of fresh air.
    The likes of Eric Cantor and Michelle Bachmann, will never hear what was said, nor do they care. The infection of the Tea Party is in the fatal stage for these people, along with many others.
    Now that we are closer than ever to the dead-line, it is my hope the the President will invoke the 14th amendment, telling the Tea Party, the Teapublicans, like Eric Cantor, Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty to shove it.

    July 27, 2011 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  21. paul

    Hmm, I remember the President coming to the table with a plan to cut spending ( even SS and medicare ) and close loopholes in the tax code to get revenue. Why are people like McCain Saying he has no ideas. That seems like a pretty middle of the road plan. Eric Cantor is the one that was not coming to the middle of the road with a plan.

    July 27, 2011 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  22. Matt


    Finally, a Republiklan speaking truthfully and sensibly. Palin, Boner and batty Bachmann should take a paghe from old John's book.

    July 27, 2011 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  23. stormsun

    This is the John McCain of old, who did not always follow the party, but spoke his mind. When he made his last bid for president, he did what he felt he had to do, I'm sure, catering to the religious right and choosing Sarah Palin as a running mate. Both of those things, in my opinion, were dreadful errors. But he is telling it like it is today. The GOP is living in a fantasy land, with the Tea Party on one hand and the fundamentalist-zealot-moralists on the other. As a member of the GOP for many years, it is truly agonizing to see what the party has turned into.

    July 27, 2011 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  24. Laika

    If given the power, the Tea Party extremists and lunatics would destroy this country in their effort to "save" it. Wake up Americans and send these Tea-Crack-Pots home in November 2012.

    July 27, 2011 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  25. Campie

    Why did it take Mr McCain so long to show his influence for this debt crisis? He's not only a former presidenital candidate, but he's also a respected politician. Which brings up another point. Where's John Kerry? Both are still in politics and have respect within the their parties. Politics is politics, but I would like to see the senior politicians voice their opinion.

    July 27, 2011 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
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